How to Make Changes to the FAFSA
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
October 7, 2022
Another October 1st has come and gone. Have you clicked submit on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yet? Congratulations on completing this sometimes onerous task!
Sometimes after filing, changes happen that need correction. What if a student gets married or pregnant? What if a student is applying to more than 10 colleges? Don’t worry. Making changes to the FAFSA is not terribly difficult!
What happens after submitting the FAFSA?
The FAFSA will be “in process” after you submit it. The information is provided to the colleges you listed on the application. The information is also given to any necessary state agencies for aid determination. The student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks after submission. Carefully review the SAR to make sure the information is correct.
Sometimes, a student will receive a request to have their information verified. Don’t panic. It’s not a big deal. Click here to read about the verification process.
The FAFSA is a snapshot in time.
The FAFSA wants to know the student and parent information effective the day they sign the application. They don’t care about the bank balance yesterday or the bank balance tomorrow. They want to know the balance today.
Certain changes after that point in time need to be reported to FAFSA. Instances when a student will need to make corrections to the FAFSA:
- A mistake was made
- An incorrect Social Security number was given
- A situation changed
What kind of “change in situation” are we talking about?
We’re not talking about a student who spends all the money they have in their savings account — FAFSA does not want to know about that.
Make corrections if the email, mailing address, or other contact information changes.
If the student gets pregnant or their legal guardianship changes, the FAFSA will need to be changed because of the student’s change in dependency status.
If the student gets married, they need to contact the college’s financial aid office to see if they can make changes to their status. The student will also need to contact the financial aid office if their parent’s income or circumstances change significantly during the current year.
If verification has been requested, there are other circumstance changes that can be corrected on the FAFSA including a change to the number of family members in the household or the number of college students in the household.
How do you make corrections?
The easiest way to make changes to mistakes is online. Visit www.StudentAid.gov, and follow the instructions for correcting your FAFSA. These changes cannot be made until after the application has been processed. An alternative to online changes would be marking changes to the SAR form and submitting it to the address on the form or contacting the college and asking them for assistance making corrections.
If the student or parent used an incorrect Social Security number, the easiest way to fix it is to submit a brand new FAFSA application. Another alternative would be to contact the financial aid office at the college and have them correct the SSN on the SAR. A final option is to mark the SAR and send it to the address given for correction. This last method is the slowest.
An important note: If you used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import student or parental tax figures into the FAFSA, those numbers cannot be changed. If you filed an amended return (1040X), contact the college’s financial aid office.
What about the student applying to a long list of colleges?
In today’s world of online college applications, students are not limited to submitting applications to 1, 2, or 3 colleges. Today’s students can submit to 20, 30, or 40. (Even if we don’t recommend applying to 40 schools!)
The FAFSA form has space for 10 colleges to receive the information. If a student has more than 10, list the favorite 10 first (maybe the ones with the earliest financial aid deadlines?), and then submit it.
After the SAR is received, go back into the FAFSA as a returning user, delete the original 10, and add up to 10 more. If the financial information is updated at that point (remember the snapshot in time?), the first 10 schools that have already received the information will not be notified of changes.
Making changes to the FAFSA does not need to be difficult. Pay attention to the details, and follow the necessary steps in the process. Remember the college’s financial aid office has probably heard every possible question. Reach out to them when in doubt.
Originally published 11/2018
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